Mastering concrete formwork: Tips for a flawless finish

Concrete formwork, also known as shuttering, plays a pivotal role in achieving a smooth and precise finish in concrete structures. Whether you’re laying a patio, setting up foundations, or working on other concrete projects, understanding the intricacies of formwork can make a significant difference in the outcome. In this guide, we’ll delve deep into the world of concrete formwork, offering tips and insights to help you achieve that flawless finish.

Essential materials for concrete formwork

At its core, formwork is designed to hold concrete in place as it sets and hardens. While wood is the most commonly used material for this purpose, other options like PVC and aluminum are also viable choices, depending on the specific requirements of your project.

Materials checklist:

– Wooden planks or alternative materials like PVC or aluminum
– Shovel
– Spirit level
– Stakes
– Saw
– Hammer
– Nails or screws
– Formwork oil (to ease the process of removing the formwork later)

Steps to perfect concrete formwork

1. Preparing the surface

Start by excavating the area where you intend to pour the concrete. Use stakes to mark the boundaries, ensuring you have a clear outline to work within.

2. Setting up the boards

Cut the boards according to the measurements of your project. Assemble them to create the formwork, ensuring that everything is level. A spirit level will be your best friend here. Once assembled, coat the boards with formwork oil. This will make the process of removing the formwork later much easier and prevent the concrete from sticking to the boards.

3. Reinforcing the formwork

If you’re pouring a large amount of concrete, it’s crucial to reinforce the formwork. Use external stakes to provide additional support and prevent any deformations or bulging once the concrete is poured.

4. Pouring the concrete

You can either prepare the concrete mix yourself or have it delivered, depending on the scale of your project. Pour the concrete into the formwork, ensuring it’s evenly spread. Use a rod or stick to aerate the concrete, eliminating any air pockets. If necessary, smooth out the surface using a trowel.

5. Planelle or traditional formwork?

Planelles are an innovative alternative to traditional formwork. These are panels that integrate with the concrete, saving time during the removal process. They also provide a cleaner finish. However, there are a few considerations to keep in mind:

– Ensure you find planelles in the right dimensions for your project.
– They must remain stable during the concrete pouring process.
– While they offer convenience, planelles can be more expensive than traditional wooden boards.

6. Removing the formwork

Once the concrete has completely set and hardened, it’s time to remove the formwork. Approach this task with care, especially around the edges, to avoid chipping or damaging the concrete.


Concrete formwork might seem daunting, but with the right materials and techniques, it’s a task that can be mastered by anyone. By following the steps outlined above and paying attention to detail, you can achieve a professional-grade finish in your concrete projects. Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional builder, understanding the nuances of formwork will undoubtedly elevate the quality of your work.